Amusement Park Safety

roller-coasterEarlier this week, several people were injured in a roller coaster accident at Six Flags in Valencia, California.  Apparently, a tree fell on the track, injuring two people and causing a number of others to be stranded for hours.

That’s tragic.  Amusement park injuries occur more than we think, and they are often severe.

But what caught my eye was the source of the story.  The story I saw was on Yahoo, but ran in the Christian Science Monitor.  Why did it catch my eye?

A lot of people have never heard of the Christian Science Monitor, but it’s an internationally respected newspaper that has won several Pulitzer Prizes and dozens of other awards for outstanding journalism.  When I was in back in high school participating in speech and debate, we used to read many of the articles, and most of the headlines, to prepare ourselves for our various competitions.

The Yahoo story stuck with me because I’ll always remember a competition in the small town of Hondo, Texas, where I quoted an article from the Christian Science Monitor in one of my speeches.  I didn’t do as well as I normally did or expected to do, and I couldn’t figure out why until we received the judges’ sheets after the contest.  And my judge railed on me for citing a right wing propaganda machine during my speech.

I didn’t correct my judge to let him know about his errors.  But I’ve always remembered that story because it’s an important to so many lessons for me.  I’m just sorry a roller coaster accident had to be the reminder.



Posted on: July 9, 2014 | Tagged

Get Ready To File Your Chrysler Ignition Switch Claims

As you probably know, Chrysler admitted earlier this year that just over 2.5 million of its vehicles had defective ignition switches.  The switches were faulted in at least 165 deaths and countless more serious injuries.

In an effort to control litigation costs, Chrysler has set up a claim process that will serve as an alternative to litigation.  If injured as a result of a faulty ignition switch, you may submit a claim, and it will be reviewed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who will make awards that Chrysler has agreed to pay.  The hope is that the process will be expedited and reduce costs.  Under the proposal, your claim must be made between August 1 and December 31 of this year, and Mr. Feinberg has a goal of resolving each claim within 90 to 180 days of filing.

From a claimant’s perspective, the biggest potential advantage appears to be the speed of the filing and resolution.  A typical products liability lawsuit would usually take much longer than the time hoped for in this process.  Additionally, Mr. Feinberg has publicly stated that he doesn’t want to litigate issues relating to whether the claimant’s conduct contributed to the wreck — for example, was the claimant drunk, speeding, etc.  Those types of issues would obviously be huge concerns in a trial.

On the downside, Mr. Feinberg has a lot of experience in evaluating claims and making awards in situations such as this (he handled the Sept. 11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and he’s currently doing similar work in the BP oil spill arena), and he has received a fair amount of criticism about his awards in the BP case.

If you don’t want to enter the process, then you can still file a lawsuit.  However, which path to take is a decision that must be made on a case-by-case basis.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck caused by a faulty ignition switch, please call us and we’ll try to help you.

Posted on: July 1, 2014 | Tagged

Sorry For The Lack Of Articles, But…..

EBCampershirtmockI had the pleasure of spending the last week at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island with about 35 members of my son’s scout troop.  It has taken time away from the office and my family, and it’s certainly made things more hectic, but it was worth it.

Over the course of the week, our kids earned over 100 merit badges in activities ranging from oceanography, environmental sciences, and mammal studies, to more traditional badges, such as archery, lifesaving, and wilderness survival.

Our boys could earn these merit  badges here at home, but the long trip also offered our boys a more hands-on experience.  For example, most of the kids explored the marine life in the area through snorkeling or even scuba diving.  The boys also had the opportunity to go salt water fishing from a fishing boat, to watch sea lions frolic, and watch dolphins follow our ferry to and from the island.

The camp’s marine science center was also a top attraction.  There, our boys were able to touch and feed leopard sharks, horn sharks, bat rays and more.  And many of the boys were enamored with the mantis shrimp.  These shrimp can grow up to a foot in length, and they are often difficult to keep in aquariums because they are strong enough to break the glass.  Indeed, the boys were fascinated by the fact that if humans could accelerate their arms at one-tenth the speed at which a mantis shrimp attacks its prey, we’d be able to launch a baseball into orbit.

The Waterfront At Camp Emerald Bay

The Waterfront At Camp Emerald Bay

One of the favorite parts of the week was “war canoes”, where we made an hour-plus canoe trip to a secluded beach on the island.  Once there, the kids could go hiking, snorkeling or play on the beach.  The day was capped off with dutch oven dinners, and then we all spent the night on the beach.  Around 4:45 the next morning, we had our wake-up call, we loaded up, and we canoed back to the main camp.

Of course, no boy scout camp would be complete without the opportunity to serve others, and one of our opportunities was a bit unexpected.  As we returned to camp with our fishing charter, we encountered a small boat with three passengers waving feverishly.  As our captain approached the boat, the boaters let us know that they had run out of gas and were stranded.  We radioed to Harbor Patrol, and soon our stranded friends were being towed back in to safety.  The lesson was not lost on our boys as one unnamed scout (okay, it was my son), took the opportunity to suggest to the boaters that they should “Be Prepared” for those types of situations.

The Stranded Boaters Awaiting Help

The Stranded Boaters Awaiting Help

Needless to say, we were are all tired, but it was a great experience for all of the kids.

Posted on: June 23, 2014 | Tagged

The Vulnerably Housed and Homeless Suffer Increased Risk of TBI

Typically, traumatic brain injury (TBI) coverage focuses on those involved in contact sports and on military veterans. However, TBI also seriously affects vulnerably housed individuals and the homeless.

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation recently featured a study arguing that the homeless who suffer TBI have a strong, negative impact on public expenses. Homeless and unsafely housed individuals who have suffered damaging blows to the head are more likely to frequent ER departments for health care, to fall victim to assaults, to have done jail time and to have been arrested.

The Canadian article argued that traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions, are approximately seven times more common among the homeless. TBIs may manifest themselves in mental health issues, in alcohol or drug abuse and in physical symptoms, including seizures.

The study stretched over four years, and 61 percent of its participants reported having sustained a TBI in survey. The figures were roughly consistent across Canada. Homeless individuals with a history of TBI were 1.5 times more likely to attend an ER due to the long-term side effects of their brain injury.

These individuals were also almost twice as likely to have spent time in jail or to have been arrested by police within the previous year — usually as a result of personality disturbances or impaired mental abilities as a result of a TBI. The homeless with brain injuries were almost three times more likely to be assaulted than other, similarly situated individuals.

Increased screening and condition-management assistance could help control the higher level of health care required for homeless TBI victims. Unfortunately, prospects for this kind of action remain weak in the face of more dominant health care priorities.

Posted on: May 30, 2014 | Tagged

Texas oil workers have a high accident and death rate

Although the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was horrific for platform workers, and those who lost loved ones, riggers on land are at an even greater risk, without much of a support system for them.

According to a recent drilling article in the Houston Chronicle, workers have no one to rely on for their safety or assistance in the event of an accident, not even the federal government. It’s a depressing commentary on the human condition when 60 oil rig workers die, one at a time, and it does not register as a warning flag. This observation came from no less that the former assistant regional administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

It’s not news that onshore oil fields are virtually the most dangerous places to work. This fact was revealed in 2007, at the beginning of the fracking boom, by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSHIB), who revealed that 40 percent of the 663 riggers killed while working on rigs, died in Texas. 2012 was a bad year, featuring a ten-year high, with 65 deaths, 79 workers who had a limb amputated, 92 who sustained burns, 675 with broken bones and 82 crush deaths. These are grim statistics. Unfortunately, with the increased activity, particularly in the Eagle Ford Shale patch, the problem will only get worse.

Furthermore, the CSHIB study showed the federal government has done nothing for 22-years with regard to putting safety procedures and standards in place for onshore gas and oil drilling. These findings did not let the OSHA off the hook for their lackluster rules and regulations pertaining to safety. They are only mandated to launch an investigation relating to accidents that kill a worker or that resulted in three or more employees being sent to hospital. There were 18,000 work-related injuries in the past 6-years, and only 150 were investigated.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but bears mentioning as a reminder of the lack of government involvement relating to safety in the oil industry in Texas, that when the OSHA conducted an investigation, safety infractions and violations were cited in 78 percent of them. It’s not too difficult to suspect that the accidents that were not investigated were also caused by safety violations.

Instead of getting better, it appears safety procedures and standards rank dead last with the government. Hundreds of Texas families would disagree with this approach. Hundreds more workplace accident lawyers also find fault with this hands off attitude.

Posted on: May 20, 2014 | Tagged

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Results in Large Settlement out of Court, Due to Employer Negligence

Although this workplace lawsuit happened in Philadelphia, it could just as easily happen in Austin, Texas, the state with the highest number of on-the-job injuries and deaths.

This was a wrongful-death lawsuit that arose after the death of a Philadelphia man while on a jobsite. The $17 million settlement involved the wife of the deceased worker, a father of five, killed in 2011 when a 300-pound iron hook fell on him, instantly crushing his body.

Adam Nowak had gone to work in the morning, figuring he would be home later. His family never saw him alive again. Nowak’s death was ostensibly caused by the negligent maintenance of an industrial crane that held the large hook that fell on him.

Evidence relating to the case demonstrated that the accident was not the result of a moment of inattention by the crane operator. Instead, safety records showed a history of the company not inspecting its cranes. This meant the accident was not an unforeseeable event, but instead, one that was predictable—even more so when it was also revealed the company had a similar accident in 2004 when they were told to upgrade safety limit switches. The company did not upgrade the switches.
This is consistent with many construction accident cases. Tragedies rarely happen because of one sudden event. They usually happen because the contractors involved ignore safety rules and regulations, including their own policies and procedures, and knowingly make workers take shortcuts. Construction accidents aren’t usually sudden events; they’re usually the result of long-term problems.

This case did not make it to court, as the company, Veolia Energy’s Schuylkill Steam Plant, opted to settle out of court, a step usually taken if the defendant feels their case is not strong enough to withstand the scrutiny of a jury at trial. The company and crane operator paid $15 million, and the firm contracted to repair and inspect the crane paid $1.5 million, while the general contractor for the jobsite paid $550,000.

But for the negligence of the worker’s employer, he would still be alive today.

If you have been injured on the job, make contact with a knowledgeable Austin workplace injury lawyer. Each state has its own set of rules relating to injuries on the job, and you need to know how your situation may be addressed in terms of legal compensation for any injuries sustained.

Austin Accidents on the Rise Due to Construction and Inattention to Speed Limits

Austin is a busy city, rapidly expanding to greet new people. As the population grows, the number of traffic accidents increases.

The increasing number of accidents in Austin is related to the number of construction sites now actively expanding various highways, such as the project to add an express lane on MoPac. Ever since construction began, car crashes started to happen with alarming regularity.

The Austin Police Department (APD) is warning people that travel in a construction zone is at 55 mph, and not the usually posted speed, 65 mph. Be aware of any construction zones before leaving for work and watch the traffic ahead on the road. If it is moving slowly, there is usually a good reason.

MoPac is generally the one highway where people tend to put on an extra burst of cruise speed, over and above the posted limit. This tendency has resulted in a number of relatively serious crashes. Any interstate traffic is slowed down by construction reasons: There is no shoulder in a construction zone, and the speed limit is substantially lower. No shoulder means drivers have no place to go when they find themselves needing to slam on the brakes at the last minute to attempt to avoid a collision.

The $200 million expansion project, while a welcome change for harried drivers, has resulted in more people not paying attention to posted warnings relating to the construction. Drivers who do not pay attention to what they are doing while driving, whether that relates to texting while driving, or driving while distracted in other ways, are negligent. It is their duty to drive with due care and attention to everything going on around them. The minute their attention lapses, the chances of a serious or fatal accident goes up exponentially.

Even though police are stationed on MoPac, speeding is still an issue. At some point, the department plans to stop giving out warnings and start handing out tickets.

If you have been involved in a traffic accident as the result of another driver’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. To initiate a personal injury lawsuit, you need to consult with an experienced Austin injury lawyer.

Posted on: April 23, 2014 | Tagged

New Research Combats Linear and Rotational Forces with Contact Athletic Helmets

Hits to the head can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Such hits are extremely common in many contact sports, including football, placing the risks involved in play under close scrutiny in recent years.

Not many think about the consequences of head injuries on the field. Many are more interested in who was tackled and what the score is, even if there was headbutting along the way. Unfortunately, this lack of concern extends to current equipment design: football helmets are not sufficiently constructed to prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Currently, TBI occurs 1.7 million times per year in the U.S., and roughly 20 percent of cases are the direct result of athletic activity. Many of these head injuries also include concussions, a precursor to long-term brain damage. Thankfully, researchers are now examining standards for a better, safer helmet — one that can withstand both linear and rotational force, the two types of dynamic forces players experience during a football game.

Existing football helmets are designed to withstand linear force, but they neglect the impact rotational force can have. Linear hits are direct, centered, frontal hits that push the head straight backwards. Helmets can blunt linear force effects to a certain extent, but they do not accommodate for rotational hits, known to cause about 40 percent of today’s sporting head injuries.

Rotational hits happen because of the round shape of a helmet. Some frontal hits bounce off the helmet’s crown. Typically, those hits slide to the side with a shearing motion, shaking the brain in the process. This phenomenon may even occur after low-impact hits. A combination of these two types of hits can cause serious head injuries and long-term cognitive problems.

Researchers in Florida are hoping to create a helmet that offers two kinds of protective chambers to cushion the skull and help the brain remain stable when hit. The proposed design layers non-Newtonian and Newtonian fluids. Non-Newtonian fluids are typically gels. Newtonian fluids include air and water. Ideally, the two layers would work together to offer protective padding and to reduce impacts to the head by absorbing the energy of a hit and distributing it evenly across the helmet’s surface.

It’s a unique concept. One layer receives the force of a hit, which compresses the fluid in that layer. Because of that layer’s compression, the fluid expands through a tube to the next layer, which acts to neutralize the force. Once pressure is removed, the protective chambers rebound to their original states (meaning, among other things, that the helmets could be used repeatedly). The new design is effective in the lab, but wider testing needs to be performed in partnership with companies interested in producing the helmets.

These helmets may also have applications for athletes in other sports, firefighters, construction workers, motorcyclists, cyclists, skateboarders and soldiers. They should be as effective for children as for adults. The protective layers are designed to be inexpensive, and they may be produced to retrofit existing helmets.

These safety developments are exciting, especially when one considers that in 2013, NFL penalty statistics reveal that each football player sustained at least one illegal hit to the neck or head in virtually every game.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleges That Police Shot Handcuffed Suspect in Chest

Allegedly, Brooklyn police shot and killed a handcuffed man in August 2013. A grand jury has declined to file charges against the police officer who allegedly shot the man, but his mother has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
At the time the 24-year-old man was shot, he was wanted by police for kidnapping. The suspect was halted at a traffic stop and placed under arrest before he was shot in the chest. The details of this case are hotly disputed, and the wrongful death lawsuit will be heading to court within the year.

The defendant’s attorney has suggested that the man tried to fight off two officers during arrest. During the course of that struggle, he allegedly took possession of one of their Tasers and attempted to take a firearm. The man was facing more than six possible years in prison for kidnapping and was actively resisting arrest; according to the defense, police acted within their scope of authority to protect themselves from a perceived life-threatening attack.

The plaintiff, the man’s mother, does not believe that her son resisted arrest inappropriately. The plaintiff’s case rests on that the alleged fact that the man was handcuffed when he was shot in the chest (a fact which would belie the police’s statement that he was attacking both officers). The plaintiff’s lawyer further claims that defense’s argument is not credible. According to the plaintiff, four other individuals were in the man’s car when he was asked to pull over for the traffic stop and witnessed the ensuing events, but oddly, none of them were called to give testimony before the grand jury that dismissed the criminal charges.

The defense has indicated that a dash cam video of the incident is available, but the dead man’s family has not seen it. It is logged in as evidence to be presented at the wrongful death trial.

This is a very complex wrongful death lawsuit, and it will take time to be resolved. With or without criminal charges, questions about the incident that took a man’s life remain. If you have been in a situation like this, reach out and consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. You need to know what options are open to you, what the evidence reveals, how it may be interpreted and how a court may view it.

Posted on: March 14, 2014 | Tagged

Negligence on Texas Worksite Leads to Severe Leg Injury

Those who let their attention slip on the jobv may inadvertently contribute to serious injuries or deaths.
Texas worksites are active accidents looking for a place to happen. Workers could easily suffer serious injuries if their coworkers are not following proper safety protocol. All it takes is a moment of inattention.

Edward Acclis, Jr. is employed by Newpark Resources Incorporated in Texas. In August 2013, he was involved in a workplace accident. While on the Texas Industrial Box Company and Transportation worksite, a trucker, backing his rig up to the loading docks, pinned Acclis’ legs up against the dock. The trucker, Edward Shaw, apparently did not see Acclis as he maneuvered the vehicle.

Evidence of negligence is central to a personal injury lawsuit of this nature. In this suit, the statement of claim has suggested that the truck driver, Shaw, was negligent in his work duties: he did not pay attention to his surroundings, and, in doing so, failed to maintain proper caution. The lawsuit seeks damages of up to $200,000.

Shaw’s distracted driving may have seriously injured Acclis, but such cases are not always clear-cut. Acclis himself may have played a part, failing to maintain the proper caution in watching for the truck. Given the circumstances, the court may find that Acclis played a contributory role in his accident, and any award may be reduced accordingly.

If the court finds that he was 10 percent responsible for his accident and that the trucker was 90 percent responsible, the trucker will pay 90 percent of the total award. Acclis would then pay 10 percent in return (or, more accurately, his compensation would be reduced by 10 percent).

Perlmutter and Schuelke actually handled a very similar case several years ago. In our tragic case, the trucker backed up toward the loading dock and crushed a worker on it, killing him. We were able to show that the truck did not have required safety features that were designed to prevent this type of accident. The case quickly settled after our expert provided a deposition explaining everything that the trucking company did wrong.

Texas workplace injury law is complex. Depending on the details of the case, a worker may pursue a variety of options. Do not guess what they may be. Only a competent Austin injury lawyer ia able to get you the compensation you deserve.

Posted on: January 31, 2014 | Tagged

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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